Do you remember the Johnny Depp movie “Benny and Joon?” Yea, probably not, but I certainly do. I went to see it with a friend from high school just after graduation. You may wonder what an obscure movie from two decades ago has to do with a blog about Jesus Christ. On the way home from the movie, my friend asked me a question. “What do you want most in life?” The conversation that followed changed my life.
The conversation ended with an invitation to read a few passages from The Book of Mormon and to meet with two missionaries who could tell me more about the Church. Over the course of the next few weeks, I did meet with them, I challenged them with questions, prayed for answers of my own, and made some big decisions.
Twenty years ago today, August 1, 1993, I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that baptism is an ordinance that is essential to return to live with God after this life. We believe that it must be baptism by complete immersion in water, performed by someone who has the authority to do so (we’d refer to it as someone holding the priesthood). Jesus Christ set the example himself by seeking baptism from his cousin, John the Baptist. John held the same priesthood authority, and baptized Christ by immersion in the River Jordan (Mark 1:9). Immersion is symbolic of spiritual and physical death as well as spiritual re-birth and physical resurrection.
Baptism is also the way a person becomes a member of the Church. We make covenants, or promises between God and ourselves, to devote our lives to the service of God and His children. While baptism is a one-time event, each Sunday we take the sacrament (communion) and re-commit ourselves to those baptismal promises. The reason you may see your Mormon friends and neighbors doing service in the community or neighborhood is because of those promises to serve as Christ served. Any individual who is eight years or older and willing to live the standards of the Church may be baptized (read more about baptism here).
So I mentioned that one conversation changed my life. It did because it led me to the decision to be baptized. Because of that, I know my life has purpose. I know I’m not alone, that Christ knows me and my challenges. I know that we are all children of God, here on earth to gain experience and exercise faith. I know that my family can be together beyond this life if we all live true to the promises we make at baptism. I know that I have a responsibility to share what those things mean to me with others. I’d likely still be leading a happy life if I hadn’t been baptized 20 years ago today. The difference is that the happiness that I have in my life has eternal meaning and significance to me and my family.